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French cultural exchange kicks off on Saturday

A large metal sculpture of a bull by Ou Vanndy.
A large metal sculpture of a bull by Ou Vanndy. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

French cultural exchange kicks off on Saturday

A 15-day celebration of French and Cambodian culture and exchange is set to kick off on Saturday with an open house and concert at the French Institute, which will be followed by a series of free and ticketed cultural, culinary and entrepreneurial events throughout Phnom Penh.

“Culture, gastronomy, artisanship, entrepreneurship” – those are the four guiding themes of the events, said Guillaume Massin, president of French-Cambodian chamber of commerce, who along with Franck Sampéré, president of the Good France Cambodia committee, helped organise the event with French Embassy.

A French dinner, networking boat cruise and a lecture by renowned French foreign correspondent Florence Aubenas are just a sampling of the 11 events scheduled through the end of the month, for which the full schedule can be accessed by visiting the Facebook page of the French Embassy.

“One value [of the events] is the dialogue between cultures, the opening of one to another, and it’s really this opening through culture that France promotes enormously; I find this is important,” French Ambassador Eva Nguyen Binh told The Post at a press conference at the French Embassy on Thursday.

Originally a weeklong occasion, Binh said this year the sheer number of events slated necessitated an expansion from simply a “French week” to a “French fifteen” or la quinzaine Française as it’s been dubbed in French.

Not to be missed is the “Art in the Park” event on Saturday and Sunday next week, for which the French Embassy opens its gardens to the public and where contemporary artists Em Riem, Philong Sovan, Thang Sothea, Ou Vanndy, Phe Sophon, Tor Vutha and Nou Sary have installed sculptures, as well as a photography exhibition.

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Artist Em Riem sits inside a rattan sculpture, which he made to demonstrate the versatility of the material. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

Sothea has hung massive frond-like structures made from tin cans among the trees, which he says are a commentary on the environment and the problem of pollution.

Em Riem took a lighter approach, with his untitled work made to demonstrate the power and versatility of rattan.

Tor Vutha, meanwhile, drew upon his experience as a refugee in Thailand to make plastic-fibre human figures representing refugees, which he’s painted in red, a colour that represents both luck and danger or violence.

“It’s also a reminder, to question, why does this happen again?” he said, noting the current global crisis.

Supporting contemporary Cambodian artists this way, says Ambassador Nguyen Binh, also reflects values such as freedom of expression.

“They go abroad yet here they exhibit fairly little, even if they are renowned, but here [at the Embassy] we gave them carte blanche,” she said.

La quinzaine Francaise runs through March 30. For detailed information go to their Facebook page

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